April 23, 2014

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Kent State: It Affected Other Colleges, Too

Among them was Ohio University.

Practically overshadowed by the news about last week's Ohio primary was the 40th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University.  That's probably because the anniversary date, May 4th, was the date of the primary.

But while I remember the shootings, resulting in the deaths of four students and the wounding of several others, I also remember the effect it had on other colleges across Ohio and the nation.

Ten days after the Kent shootings, two students died at Jackson State University when they were shot by police.  And while they weren't touched by the violence, other schools closed, some temporarily, some for the rest of the semester.

Among the latter was Ohio University.

The unrest which led to the tragedy at Kent quickly spread to Athens.  In order, no doubt, to prevent a repeat of the Kent and Jackson State shootings, Ohio U. officials closed down the school, meaning its June graduation was also cancelled. 

"Our campus was in chaos," recalled University President Dr. Charles Ping ten years later. "Commencement was cancelled. The proud moment of personal joy when students and their parents and friends stand tall passed without notice."

Dr. Ping was not the school's president when the unrest happened in 1970.  But he accurately captured the mood at the time.  My parents knew a student at O.U. who was due to graduate that quarter. It was with my mother's assistance that he got into school there, and she had intended to go to Athens to see him graduate in June.  We did see him, but it was after the school closed.  He brought with him a copy of the campus newspaper, The Post, which, instead of the weather forecast in the upper corner, instead had a comment that "the sky has fallen".

Although those graduates received their dimplomas that year, they were honored at the university's commencement in 1980. A reunion is also planned for this year's graduation ceremony.

While most, I'm sure, have had successful lives...they too, in a way, were victims of May 4th, 1970.

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